Monday, September 27, 2010

Assignment #4, 9/20

Safiya Martinez
Assignment #4
CW 602

Ezekiel, or FREAKY as all the kids—and teachers have learned to call him is one of the coolest students at school. The word student is applied loosely here. He is rarely in class, and makes a habit of posting up in the school hallways, stairwells and corners outside. Freaky is more a part of the streets than the school, yet he is a fixture. Teacher is asking him probing questions about his gear, and how he gets it. He regularly comes to school hungry, but is always in the freshest clothes. Teacher is on a prep, and is passing the time this way instead of grading. Most kids get irked by long strings of questions, but Freaky is

“What’s hot this year? Oh, you gotta have the A-1s, like always. They come in all colors, and they a little cheaper than like the Jordans. I got money—I gets money, but it’s not everyday you got a buck-80 to spend on sneakers. And depending on who you are, where you stay at you could go home with a buck-fifty on your face [traces a finger down his face in a half-moon slice, indicating one hundred and fifty stitches.] … How much do I think I spent on sneakers on the past five years? C’mon miss… How much time you got? My closet is crazy. Those are my babies. I don’t know, I got like seventy boxes, Poloroided and all that. Yeah…. I don’t have the walk-in joint, but I gotta a lot. A LOT. I can get lost in there. I have to know where everything’s at. Then what comes next? A’ight, I pick the kicks first, like then I know the color palate I’m working with, or whatever, and then I do belt, match it, fitted—catch it. [Takes off his Yankees hat, flips it, and puts it jauntily back on his head]… Too matchy-matchy? What you mean? What does that even mean? If you don’t match you look bummy. I can’t have that. Like I have to match to the socks. To the drawers, if you gotta know…
[Freaky gets annoyed, and starts to back off a bit.]
Because, if you don’t match you look off, first of all, and then everybody thinks they know your whole life story. You don’t know my life. You don’t know nothing about me. Fuck they opinions, but I don’t want nobody to think I’m broke. I got money. I get my own money out here all day.
…It just sets your day off right. I got the Trues, socks straight out the package, the crisp white T- from the Habibi or African spot. Oh, they all over. I know you not looking for a white T, but do you even look where you going? They on every other corner. This is really interesting to you? Don’t make no sense. It’s simple. Kids like to look fresh. I spend it cuz it’s worth it. It’s college money? You crazy. I’m getting scholarships. All day. That’s light work. Now putting together the right ‘fit… That’s harder.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Safiya Martinez, Assignment #3 Performed on 9/15

Safiya Martinez
Assignment #3
CW 602

Vanessa is a member of Jose’s old seventh grade class for students with mild to moderate disabilities. She has been pulled aside by the teacher with her best friend Osiris to speak to the principal about the incident between Jose and Kaleema. She is very skinny, and a few of the boys in class make fun of her—pretty ruthlessly at times. These boys don’t know how else to express their emerging interest in her. This particular group of kids has been in the same class for three years, or a decade in adolescent years. Vanessa is a beloved, yet a terror. Her temper is an ongoing issue in class. Part of her reluctance in telling on Jose is based on the fact that she relates to his anger.

“Defending the girls? He said you defend the girls? That’s what Jose said? PUH-LEASE. You run and tell onion boy I said… [To Osiris] why I call him onion boy?
.... But you remember what I’m talking about. With his eyes, and the tears… Yeah… YEAH. But bendito, don’t clown him too much. He can’t control it. It’s uncontrollable… like a condition, or whatever.
[Back to the teacher]
…But anyways, Miss, I don’t think it’s right what he said that but I’m not telling. Let’s be serious. You want me to go into Mr. Hannibal’s office and snitch… That’s snitching, Miss. How? He didn’t say nothing bad to me. Well then, I’mma do unto others. I’m not telling on Jose when he had a issue with Kaleema that had nothing to do with me. If somebody pisses me off, and dique, I can’t control it, and I spaz on someone and then I get in trouble, that’s not fair. Why? Because they got to say what they had to say and I didn’t. When Johnfe and them be fuckin—‘scuse—me, messing with me, and you can’t shut them down, I have a right to curse them out. They come at me all the time. Calling me skinny and ugly, and making fun of my lazy eye. And if, let’s say Osiris snitched on me for cursing in class when I’m defending myself that’s madd wrong. And anyways, snitches get stitches. I’m not saying nothing.
[To Osiris]
Osiris, speak already… I’m saying everything. C’mon, chunky. Say something…. Miss, I could call her chunky, that’s my best friend. She call me skinny, skeletor, crypt keepa, all that. Miss, bust how the day of my physical for softball Osiris called me Ash-a-ley Olsen. Yeah, that she used to be on Full House now she look like a homeless crackhead that you see on Jerome Avenue. Yo, she is killing herself to look like a dope fiend. I don’t understand that. I wish I could gain weight. You watch, next year I won’t even need to wear two pairs of jeans to school. I’m drinking Nutriment.
[To Osiris] Back to the subject… Osiris are you gonna tell Hannibal?
I understand that… you don’t like Jose… Me neither, not really, but are you snitching? Well?
You, heard? Damali and them niggas in 6-Wild are stalking Kaleema now. Calling her nasty and you know, and they all trying to take her. It’s not right, but that’s what happens when you do stuff like that in the first place. Let me stop… I’m not saying nothing else …next thing you know she gonna ask me to snitch on this Blooded up crew from 163rd. Like I’m a idiot. Miss, one day you gotta tell me where you went to school. Why I wanna know? There’s certain things that you just don’t—I’m just saying… I wanna hear that story.”

Safiya Martinez Assignment #2, performed on 9/8

Safiya Martinez
CW 602
Week #2: Opted for a new monologue in the “First-year Teacher project”

Character: Jose is a fourteen-year-old student in the seventh grade. This is his second time in seventh grade, so he’s a year older than his peers, but is much smaller in stature than many kids in the class. He is skinny. He has a tear duct problem of some kind, and so his eyes are always filled with water, which will slide down his face steadily, giving the appearance of tears from crying. In the class he is what you call a “tipper”. Not inherently aggressive, but any sign of disorder or discontent, and Jose can’t help but take it to the next level. After a string of incidents—ending in pretty severe abuse of a student named Kaleema, Jose is reclassified, and sent to the class for students with emotional disturbance. He will be way out of his league is that class. The students are bigger and more intimidating on every level. He tells his story to a kid in the hall while awaiting the conversation with the principal.


“Nah, because she always defends the girls, man. I’m telling you, I’m telling you. She didn’t have to go so fucking hard… But to change me class? MY WHOLE class? Not even… the whole program. No more Witness Protection, ya heard? Oh, you don’t know what’s witness protection? It’s like all the kids who are a little fucked up, you know they don’t speak English, or they dyslexic, can’t hold the pencil right, shit like that. I wasn’t supposed to be in that class anyway but my attendance hold me back. Not for nothing, but I can’t get to school on time, man. Why? I be straight chiefin’ ya heard. Everyday. This morning… Who was it?… It was me, Pops, Freaky, Marquis… you know Marquis… Not Cooke, Wiggins. We had two L’s in rotation. I was over, B. Finished. And then I walk into class, and fucking Kaleema is at my desk. I do not like her. Not at all…. Because she’s disgustin’. She like to act all quiet in school, so teachers don’t know she a nasty ass bitch. Feel me? It’s one thing to have a man, and y’all do your thing whatever. But yo, word to everything I love she been slobbin the knob on the school bus since last year, My nigga. She was in the SIXTH grade! Who was it? Oh, you already know. Jeffrey from College. Is he in College? You a STOOPS, College Avenue dummy. She madd nasty. So I walk in, and she’s sitting at my desk and when I tell her “Move,” she say “What? You never here.” And I can’t lie, I spaz out. The veins in my neck come out, and I just scream on her like I’m her father. I said “You nasty ass bitch, that’s why Damali and all them 6-Wild motherfuckers from 63rd run train on you, puneta” And then the teacher say “Oh my God, Jose you so disrespectful, how could you?” And she kick me out. So that’s why I’m out here…. Huh? ….The meeting’s in ten minutes. They think I don’t know, but I been through this already. That’s how I got in Special Ed in the first place. I was late, late, late, not paying attention, when I tell you 83 lates in one semester… [sighs] and then I really started to fall back. Mr. P took me into the office, and he said “Jose you got so much potential, but you with your behavior, and the fact that you not here to learn the content, we gotta leave you back, AND put you in Special Ed. I could handle it, but to keep it a-hundred with you, I hate being in the little class with all those retarded ass kids. That’s not me, man….. I’m there cuz I’m hard-headed, not cuz I’m stupid.
….Bridget, where you going ma? Why you walking so fast? Don’t worry about me, I asked you where you was going. Oh it’s like that? Alright then, get to class you fucking derelict. Shuttup, with your flat ass. That’s why your butt looks like the last slice of bread, Maricon.
I’m playing, I’m playing. You know I got madd love for you…
[To friend] Damn, she a cutie. She don’t talk to Eds. Special Eds. But you watch, by next week I’mma have that number. How? Natural born charisma, my dude.
…Am I scared? Scared of what, them kids in the basement class? Nah, I know all them from Webster. They be wilding down there, though. You heard, last week they took Tasha’s hand and burnt her with the glue gun right in front of the cheecher. What the cheecher did? Nothing, man. They shook. They be at the desk, poppin Percocets hoping they car don’t get keyed. I’mma be alright though. My moms love me. Makes me come to school right every day. New Airforce ones, or Jordan 5s, breakfast in my stomach, bacon egg and cheese, word to everything I love she take care of me. Yeah, sometimes that’s why I’m late. She work nights and sleep late. She’s a phlebotomist at Mount Sinai. You don’t know what’s a phlebotomist? You hopeless. They take blood in the hospital. Yeah, that’s what she does. She gonna kill me, B. You know the voice, “Jose, the next time you in trouble, I’m not coming.” But she always come anyway.
… What? Mr. P’s ready to see me? Aight. I’ll be right there.”

Safiya Martinez Assignment #1, 9/1

Niecey was part of the new generation of gay girls that came out at 13. They don’t call themselves dykes, and truly, half of them didn’t even know what that word meant. They just called themselves bitches that like girls. Niecey came to the rubber room with a mouth full of cold sores and wrists full of Pride bracelets not having to defend shit but her transcript, and I thought it was dope that things were changing. She was a mid-year transfer, which usually has some crazy back-story with it. I think she was trying to earn credits to be a freshman, but had to bide her time in the middle school E.D. class and get her grades up so she could transfer yet again. Niecey was kind of a breath of fresh air.
No one fucked with her.
When the shit was flying—literally: tables, chairs, spit—she would just draw little hearts on her notebooks that read: Niecey loves her boo, Niecey and Tasha forever. She might fix her ponytail and say, “Y’all niggas is so fucking crazy in here,” but that was it. She vibed like a Juvie survivor, and that was straight Capital for the situation. She did her work, stared out the window and might even answer a few questions about eating pussy if Nathaniel and his crew didn’t get disrespectful. She had this glide and grit that comes with having lived through shittier times than the present, and because of her whole boss-lady affect, she could talk about sex without being called a nasty bitch. The boys would listen to her with rapt attention, ask questions and not holler obscene shit.

One day at lunch, I saw her at the store counting out quarters to buy some food.

-Oh, what’s up, Miss?
-I got your sandwich, Niecey.

I slid my money across the counter, and threw down a few extra bills for sunflower seeds and a coffee.

-Thanks, Miss.

Niecey didn’t even look surprised that I paid for her stuff. I think she thought I was going to pay for her cigarettes too. We left the store not saying much.
There’s always this awkward silence with students you don’t know too well. Or students that you know would have intimidated the shit out of you if you were the same age. Or students who are intimidating, period. Niecey packed her Newports tighter, and let one dangle from her lip.
-It’s my birthday today. I’m so excited, my girlfriend is taking me bowling, and then she’s gonna give me a massage with hot oil. Then we getting tattoos.

I hadn’t had a romantic-equivalent on my birthday in years. I was hating.

-Happy birthday, honey.

Niecey finished her cigarette, carefully unwrapped the wax paper on her sandwich, inspected it quickly and put it away. I looked down the winding hill back to Teller, and tried to Jujitsu my mind, so I’d be ready to teach in twenty minutes.

-You teach Health next?
-I’m cutting. That’s when my reservation for the bowling alley is at.
-You really need to go to all your classes, even the bullshit ones.
-That’s why I like you. You’re honest. Most teachers yell, or act like they care when they really don’t.

She took out another stogue, bent down and re-laced her perfectly done kicks, cigarette wobbling as she tied, and talked.

-You’re a good teacher.
-Thank you, Niecey.

I didn’t tell her how badly I needed to hear it. Afraid to let my guard down, and all.
But I needed to hear from a student that I wasn’t a fraud in my bad H&M suits and my sophomoric lesson plans and interventions. I must have made a face, ‘cause then she said:

-I’m serious. You young, hip. You smart. And nice.
It’s good that you keep coming here, ‘cause a lot of people don’t give a fuck.
Shit don’t change out here. It’s depressing after a while.
-You think nothing changes?
-Nope. Definitely don’t.
-Then why should anyone keep coming?

Niecey shrugged.

-I need credits. Then, I’m out.
She waved goodbye and trooped across the street. I studied her knock-kneed walk and tagged bookbag. Tasha Loves Niecey, Niecey and Tasha 4 Life

I don’t know how I knew, but I was sure I’d never see her again. Maybe it’s something about what happens when you need their approval more than you teach them, that they disappear. Or maybe she lost motivation.
Or maybe that transfer really did go through.
Or something. Like that.